How a Half-Jewish German Spy Smuggled the Lubavitcher Rebbe out of Poland

July 18 2019

When World War II broke out, Yosef Yitzḥak Schneersohn, the sixth rebbe of the Chabad-Lubavitch Ḥasidim, was in Poland, where he had been living since 1934. His American followers immediately commenced efforts to bring him to the U.S., hiring a Washington lobbyist to contact congressmen, White House officials, and even Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis for help. Eventually, an American diplomat requested the intervention of his German counterpart, who readily agreed. As Larry Price puts it, “The Roosevelt administration had decided to toss the Jewish community a bone to keep them quiet, and the bone was Rabbi Schneersohn.”

The one person in Germany with the authority to take a Jew out of Poland was the head of military intelligence, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris. Price continues:

Canaris called one of his officers, Major Ernst Bloch, a highly decorated soldier, into a meeting, [and] told him that he had been approached by the U.S. government to locate and rescue Rabbi Yosef Yitzḥak Schneersohn: “You’re going to go up to Warsaw and you’re going to find the most ultra-Jewish rabbi in the world,” [he told Bloch], “and you’re going to rescue him. You can’t miss him, he looks just like Moses.”

Major Ernst Bloch was a career spy. He’d joined the German army at sixteen, been severely wounded in World War I, and stayed in the army after the war. . . . Bloch was also half-Jewish. His father was a Jewish physician from Berlin who, like many other German Jews in that period, had converted to Christianity. Bloch’s mother was Aryan.

After locating Schneersohn—which proved far more difficult than Canaris predicted—Bloch escorted him and his family by civilian train to Berlin, and from there through Lithuania to Latvia, where the rebbe waited to receive a U.S. visa. Once again, his followers had to engage in intensive lobbying, this time to convince the anti-immigrant head of the State Department’s visa section, Breckenridge Long, to grant permission for the Schneersohsn to enter the U.S. Yet they somehow succeeded.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Chabad, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Holocaust, State Department, U.S. Foreign policy

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism